Best of 2011

At the end of the year, critics, bloggers and anyone else who wants to makes their own “best of” list, so I decided to make my own Latino literature favorites for 2011. Keep in mind that I started my blog in August, so I missed out on some books, such as Lorraine López’s The Realm of Hungry Spirits and Jon Michaud’s When Tito Loved Clara, and I’m keeping the list to just five books instead of the usual ten. Here are the books I loved the most from 2011:

• Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name was a riveting love story – loosely based on his own marriage to writer Aura Estrada – that covered the beginning of their relationship to her death in a swimming accident. This book will break your heart.

• Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries was a fast-paced, unputdownable novel about an undocumented maid who is thrust in the middle of an immigration debate when she is left alone with her boss’s children. The book has great description, strong characters and terrific observations about politics. It’s a shame this book didn’t receive more attention.

• Although I consider myself an avid reader, how did I not discover the awesomeness that is Luis Alberto Urrea until this year? I absolutely loved his 2005 book The Hummingbird’s Daughter, a funny, beautiful novel about a woman who discovers her healing powers in revolutionary Mexico. Her father, Don Tomas, just may be one of the best literary characters ever. The 2011 sequel, Queen of America, shows Teresita coping with her success. The tone is more somber than Daughter and there’s not enough Don Tomas, but the book is still pretty terrific.

• Sergio Troncoso wrote two books this year – a book of essays, Crossing Borders, and a novel, From This Wicked Patch of Dust – both of which draw on his experiences of living on the Texas-Mexico border. I liked Borders for its riveting essays on family dynamics and relationships – and it’s unusual to see a male author talk about work-life balance. His works deserve a larger audience.

• Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa’s Becoming Dr. Q is a fascinating look at one man’s journey from an undocumented immigrant from Mexico to one of the top brain surgeons in the United States.

I also liked Justin Torres’s We the Animals, Dagoberto Gilb’s Before the End, After the Beginning and Lyn Di Iorio’s Outside the Bones. For my non-Latino books, I loved Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

What were your favorite 2011 books? Post in the comments.

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